18.12.04

B is for berries, bevvy and honey


Two down, one to go! Yipee! I have bought two presents, and I only have one more to get before I am finished. Organised or what! I know that you must be thinking that I'm either a jammy bugga, a lazy sod or a stingy git... or indeed all three. You would, of course, be right on all three counts (although I like to think that it has to do with my presbyterian upbringing). You see, my family are all dyed-in-the-wool Church of Scotland, and many of them verged on the 'wee free' fringes, without actually taking the plunge, and whilst we always exchanged gifts at Christmas when I was a child, it was never a huge thing: in fact, it was never even a big thing. To my Dad, it was a day off work (unless he was on call) and to me and my siblings it was a couple of new toys that we maybe wanted, and some new clothes that we most certainly didn't. A leg of lamb for dinner and then Morcambe and Wise and 007, and that was it. Hogmanay was always the bigger celebration in our house. We always had a party to which half of the island was invited and to which it often seemed the whole island and half of Glasgow attended. The men smoked Regals and drank beer and whisky, the women smoked Silk Cut and drank vodka and lemonade. The children drank diluted lime cordial and thought it was alcoholic. Everyone danced, told jokes and ate lamb sandwiches. In the best Scottish working-class tradition, everyone had to sing a song - their 'party piece'. The women were always the instigators. I would be instructed to turn the record player off, then some tipsy aunt would stand up and tell everyone to shush because Aunt Jean was going to give us a song. Up would step Aunt Jean, and burst into Ten Guitars in a semi-drunken Glasgow accent. Everyone was expected to join in the chorus: 'dance, dance, dance tae ma ten gee-ta-a-a-a-urz, 'n' verry soon ye'll know just wear ye a-a-a-arr, through the ayuz uf luv yill see wan thousand sta-a-a-a-ruz, when ye dance, dance, dance tae ma ten gee-taruz'. Other favourites were 'Nobody's Child', 'Walking After Midnight', 'Two Little Boys', 'Stand By Your Man', 'The Northern Lights of Aberdeen' and of course, 'I Belong to Glasgow'. I always remember my Aunt Mary's party piece. Aunt Mary was a nursery school teacher in Glasgow before she emigrated to Australia in 1979, and her song was Puff the Magic Dragon. Poor Mary - she was tone deaf, and was the only person who didn't know it. When she got to the chorus everyone would do their best to put her off and, with tears of laughter running down their cheeks, try get her to stop scaring the animals. My Aunt Annie (the matriarch) would pipe up: 'Wan singer, wan song. Yoos shutup and let her sing', then, addressing herself to Mary, 'You carry on, hen, and never mind them'. No-one, especially not the men, dared cross Annie. The children also had to have a party piece. The older ones had to sing a song (mine was 'Charlie is my Darling'), while the younger ones could get away with a nursery rhyme with the adults aawing and aahing over them. Nowadays, these simple pleasures seem to be a thing of the past as Christmas has taken over, and everyone feels pressured to outspend everyone else. Let's swim against the stream! Anyone fancy a sing-song? I'll start: 'Charlie is my darling, my darling, my darling. Charlie is my darling, the young chevalier...'

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